Day two of SB'17 Detroit picked up the momentum from day one and ran with it. ...
Transforming Consumption Norms Around Food
Consumers these days want more out of their food than just great taste and stable health — they want their food choices to reflect their values, and their consumption habits to have a positive impact on the world. A Tuesday afternoon panel tackled this topic: World Resources Institute (WRI)’s Daniel Vennard, Sophie Eagan of Culinary Institute of America, Impossible Foods’ Rachel Konrad and Rose Wang of Chirps Cricket Chips presented separate but interrelated quests to change consumption norms and patterns around food.
WRI’s Better Buying Lab and the Culinary Institute’s Menus of Change programs are both working to research and systematically change the way consumers and producers enable better food choices for the planet. The Better Buying Lab is comprised of companies across food service and manufacturing, as well as marketing and behavioral researchers, who research, test and scale activity that shifts consumers towards eating less meat and more plant-based food. Vennard, maintains that if two billion high meat-eating consumers reduced consumption, one resulting outcome would be saving an area of land twice the size of India. Tactics to change cultural norms relies on information, education and abstinence.
Regenerative Leadership: Five Paradigm Shifts for Today’s Brands
Join us as Ben & Jerry's Dave Rapaport and BBMG's Raphael Bemporad share best-in-class case studies of organizations leading in the realm of regenerative business — June 7 at Brand-Led Culture Change.
The Menus of Change program shares a similar objective: to maximize consumer interest in and preference for plant-based food by increasing appeal, scale and sales of plant-based foods and dishes. Eagan asserted that chefs can be change agents and make a tremendous impact on human and planetary health through “the protein flip” – creating patterns of food choices, dishes and menus that emphasize non-meat proteins and meet consumer acceptance. Both Vennard and Eagan asserted that framing and language are important to broadening the general mindset about protein consumption in the U.S. For example, it should not be an “either/or” choice when it comes to plant and animal proteins.
Impossible Foods and Chirp Chips are both offering new products with unique value propositions in response to changing consumer preferences. Both Konrad and Wang alluded to the importance of flavor discovery and acceptance among respective consumer groups. The Impossible Burger – comprised of wheat protein, potato protein, coconut oil and heme – is Impossible Foods’ first product to target meat eaters. Konrad explained that while this meat alternative caters to the carnivore, it is not about guilt or shame. Even the tagline “For the Love of Meat” celebrates the notion about choice without the sacrifice of taste.
Wang then introduced the audience to the idea of insect consumption as a sustainable alternative to meat. As Wang pointed out, insects use less water and land, use more greenhouse gases, and are inexpensive to produce at scale. She started Chirps to educate people about the wide range of benefits of eating insects, and her team created cricket chips as a gateway “bug” food and first point of entry into the U.S. food system. Wang admitted that the taste is an important obstacle to overcome – a chip product was created to counteract the “gooey” perception of eating insects. Chirps are targeted to moms and teachers: kids perceive eating insects as ‘cool.’ With one serving having as much protein as an egg white, Chirps are a good way to add more nutrition when kids go through the phase of only eating carbohydrates.
A few key themes emerged from the session:
- Scale of impact: important to reach as many people as possible, pushing into the mainstream from the onset. Restaurants, chefs and food operators are essential touchpoints.
- Clarity of barriers: understanding where behavior change can happen. Dining halls are learning labs via institutions and onsite food providers.
- Meet consumers where they are: make alternative food choices, such as plant-based dishes, appealing and desirable. Frame the language that resonates with the target audience.
The Dawn of the Employee Activist (and How Companies Can Manage Them)
In this late afternoon breakout session, five speakers discussed emerging tools for understanding and improving commonly lacking aspects of today’s typical workplace.
Freya Williams (CEO, Futerra North America) discussed Trump with the disgruntled audience. One in four Americans now earn less than a living wage. Staggering, but research shows that if companies pay their employees more, they will perform better. This is democratic capitalism. If we could fix America's service sector jobs, we'd solve what's driving the whole collapse of capitalism and democracy. There has historically been a perception that politics must be removed from business, but that is no longer the case as employee activism is on the rise; this year, many CEOs have taken a stand for minimum wage and labor rights issues - inspired by the early days of the Trump administration.
Tony Calandro (Social Impact Chair, Povaddo) revealed results of an extensive survey of 1,000 diverse employees across Fortune 1000 corporations in America. The workforce social engagement barometer shows that CEOs have been forced to play "whack-a-mole" in the past few months. While 57 percent of employees across all industries believe companies need to play a more forceful role inside society, only 35 percent of those surveyed feel their CEO has their finger on the pulse of today's important bipartisan social issues. Those identified as "activist employees" tend to skew younger, more women, more Democratic, and more at the management level. Employees expressed several ways they'd like to be engaged, from hiring veterans to providing ethical options for 401K plans. The average number of employees at a Fortune 500 company is 55,000; over 8,000 in each would be identified as "activists." It is clear that CEOs and businesses will pay a price for inaction if they do not take a stand on important future political issues.
Sally Uren (CEO, Forum for the Future) asked, what will the world look like in 2036? Forum for the Future has examined 51 factors over the past 12 years, from the rise of the informal economy, to disruption to the labor market with automation, new forms of leadership, intelligent workplaces, global mental health crises, and the need for purpose. What remains constant across variable scenarios is that some engagement touchpoints will be here to stay. We need to use technology, think about automation, build supportive peer networks and encourage community interaction. We're creating the workplace of the future today. Balance is defined where you have government and business working together, shaping the workplace. "Employees have a much stronger voice than they realize," she asserted.
Francis Janes (Social Equity Program Manager, International Living Future Institute) helps organizations develop progressive policies, programs and practices that lead to more engaged, happier and more productive workplaces. His organization has examined underlying factors of pay gaps within middle pay grades and shown that when organizations invest time and effort to being transparent, they're more willing to take a leap of faith and share their practices with all stakeholders. By developing a "nutrition label" for socially responsible organizations, employees are able to understand if they're working somewhere with a true commitment to social responsibility.
Sarah Endline (CEO and Chief Rioter, Sweetriot) proves that operating with transparency leads to success. Her B Corp is building a mission to change the world through fair trade chocolate. Endline has used "open-book management" since day one, providing all employees with a sense of ownership. Her company started with providing stock options to all full-time employees, aka "rioters," and she annually bring each employee to the table to discuss strategy for its vision and success. Endine knows that by sharing the greater responsibility and encouraging partnerships throughout the supply chain and operating organization, she will make a larger difference. She also stresses the importance of remaining transparent by certifying her products as USDA Organic and FairTrade for employees to know you're authentic.
Uren's closing question: "Are you paying as much attention to the health and wellbeing of employees as to other metrics of your corporate performance?"
Retailers, Chemicals and the Future of Desirable Materials
Earlier this month, Women’s Voices for the Earth introduced a bill called the Menstrual Products Right to Know Act, intended to bring more transparency to the ingredients contained in menstrual hygiene products. In Germany, consumers sent more than 30,000 requests for information on chemical ingredients to 7,000 companies via the Friends of the Earth Germany's ToxFox app since it was launched in October of last year. In 2010, personal care startup BeautyCounter launched with 9 products and a commitment to not use 1,500 chemicals and ingredients they thought might be harmful or linked to cancer. Today, Beautycounter boasts quick growing sales of its nearly 100 products, sold through its more than 25,000 consultants and through Goop, J. Crew and Target.
Consumers are demanding (through their words and their dollars) greater transparency and responsibility from companies on the chemicals used in the products that go on, in and around their bodies – and companies are being forced to take note. In a session on Day 2 of SB’17 Detroit moderated by Wilson Griffin from Gap Inc., Emily McGarvey of Target, Michelle Harvey of EDF and Georgia Rubenstein of Forum for the Future shared their thoughts on the impacts and opportunities presented by this growing consumer trend. Though the path forward is far from clear, pre-competitive collaborations are springing up as retailers, CPG companies and chemical suppliers recognize that the roadblocks to progress cannot be solved alone.
“67 percent of the general population believe that chemicals in cleaning products can impact human health,” McGarvey said. “More than 70 percent of the general population believes the same for personal care products.” Target has seen these consumer preferences clearly expressed by the outstanding sales growth of its Made to Matter collection of “better-for-you” products – those that, among other things, restrict the use of certain chemicals. “These lines are selling more and growing faster than average, and our merchants are ‘leaning in’ and responding with new innovations – that is where the money is.”
In many ways, Target has been ahead of the curve, moving from “defensive to offensive” faster than many other retailers and brands. 2013 saw the launch of its Simply Balanced line as well as the company’s own Sustainable Product Index, intended to create a common language and process around identifying and using safer chemicals. In the same year, Walmart launched its own Safe Chemicals Policy. In 2016, Target launched its new sustainability strategy comprised of three key aspirations, including one focused on unwanted chemicals. And in January of this year, the company launched a new, enterprise-wide chemical policy that will apply across products as well as operations. The new comprehensive policy, being hailed as a uniquely proactive approach, rests on three pillars: transparency – improving labelling and information in key areas, such as fragrance; chemical management – proactively managing the use of chemicals across products and operations and removing those deemed to be harmful; and innovation – investing up to $5 million to promote the development and use of safe alternatives.
Nonetheless, the web of suppliers, processors, producers and retailers makes solving the challenges related to ingredient transparency and the use of safer chemicals a “complex, knotty problem.”
“Chemistry is hard,” Harvey admitted. “There is no easy business case. It is disruptive to products – they sell because the do what they are supposed to do, and that is because of the chemical formulation. The R&D required, the supply chain reorganization – it all makes the business case hard.” Also, with the impacts of chemicals so long-term and chronic (“our work is the 401K of the environmental movement,” Harvey joked), “we still don’t know a lot about a lot of the chemicals that are already in our life.”
Forum for the Future mapped the complexity of this system during its Beauty and Personal Care Summit, identifying four key barriers holding us back from developing and using safer chemicals: lack of agreement on how to define product sustainability; unclear market signals as to the demand for alternatives; high cost of change, including R&D, supply chain shift and more; and lack of regulatory push, which appears unlikely to change anytime soon. All four of these challenges are industry problems – no one company can solve any one. “To move the needle and raise the floor, we need to work together,” McGarvey said.
Forum is now working to develop a common tool or resource intended to bring a level of standardization and common language to the conversation. Along similar lines, EDF recently launched a report that offers a framework for safer chemical and product development with a focus on preservatives.
However, while collaboration and common tools are necessary to move the needle on the issue of safer chemicals, there is significant room for innovation and for capturing value. As attendee Euan Murray, Chief Executive of The Sustainability Consortium, noted, the competitive advantage is not in the definition of this issue but in being first to market with the solution – collaboration is key, but so is competition.
The Trick to Getting Deep CEO Commitment to Sustainable Innovation
In this Tuesday afternoon talk, authors John Izzo and Andrew Winston provided an overview of findings from a series of CEO interviews aimed at learning from the CEO’s path to sustainability; specifically, what makes them commit and how to get more CEOs on board.
Izzo and Winston highlighted five reasons CEOs commit to sustainability:
- Personal history. Winston told a story of a CEO whose dad worked with asbestos his whole life and witnessed the health and environmental issues that resulted. He knew how hard it was to clean up something after the disaster and didn’t want to be part of the next problem. “Unfortunately, sometimes the biggest impact is to see some disasters in the world,” stated Winston.
- Personal insight moment. This is the proverbial “lightbulb moment”: Izzo illustrated this motivator with the story of a CEO struggling to create his personal mission statement until one day when he was in the car and looked in the rearview mirror to see his children in the back seat. In that moment, he realized that everything he had done in his career was for himself – nothing was for his kids. In that moment, he decided to do what was in his power to ensure a good life for his children and future generations.
- Business case. This is the one motivator (considered fairly elusive until recently) that can be easily replicated, and one that has been talked about for years. Two extensions of the business case that can also drive commitment to sustainability from the CEO is the customer case (expectations/pressure from customers) and the employee case.
- Chance to impact. The way business impacts a culture or a community can make a CEO “hungry.” For example, Izzo highlighted a CEO that had suppliers in the Congo where adjusted business operations that ran counter to the culture, and another that was able to bring Internet to a rural community. They used their power to positively impact communities.
- Competition. Competing with other companies or other CEOs for recognition can cause a CEO to get invested in sustainability.
Winston highlighted a few elements the CEOs noted as obstacles to being even more committed to sustainability:
- Balancing economics and sustainability
- Short-term business focus
- Short tenure as CEO
- Board/shareholder disapproval
- Organizational hurdles
- Lack of clear answers or standards
Izzo and Winston then highlighted the CEOs’ suggestions for how to mobilize more of their peers in sustainability.
- Go see. If possible, physically go see the places that are impacted. Winston told the story of a CEO with a supply chain operating out of a rainforest. When he physically traveled and saw the rainforest – and the people, and their children, whose lives depended on it – it became real.
- Ask different questions. CEOs have the business case engrained in their minds, but if it is personal insight or purpose that will propel them into greater sustainability commitment, should we add “morality” back into the business case? It may seem simple, but rephrasing the question can start a different discussion. Instead of asking: How do you make the world a better place?, ask: What do you want to be known for? “A good question is more powerful than giving the answer,” Izzo stated.
- Mentoring or reverse mentoring. A number of methods can be used to mentor the CEO: peer CEOs, books/thought leadership, or reverse mentoring - or as Winston defined it: put a millennial in their face.
- Get competitive. Appeal to the legacy and ego. The session audience offered examples of CEOs tired of hearing about other CEOs gaining recognition for their efforts, those wanting to keep up with the Joneses, or wanting to be known for their own legacy in a multi-generation family business.
Winston appealed to the audience to “approach people as people, not organizational untouchables.” CEOs tend to have a short tenure with a company; some may feel that they are not the one that can make the change, and push the responsibility to the next CEO. Global issues such as climate change aren’t waiting on anyone and we need to make waves now with our current CEOs while engaging the next generation.
Reinventing Brands Inside and Out
During a Tuesday afternoon breakout, three iconic, 100-year-old brands shared their stories of recent reinvention. General Motors, DanoneWave (formerly Dannon) and General Electric have all taken transformative actions to remain relevant, increase their visibility and set themselves up to usher in more aspects of The Good Life over the coming decades. The discussion focused on strategies around hiring, motivating and enabling top talent in order to execute on the rest of their reinvention strategies.
Michael Arena, Chief Talent Officer at GM, shared the company’s futurist view of important workplace trends and the internal event movement, GM 2020, against a backdrop of accelerated change in the auto industry. General Motors is focused on four key areas: 1) talent gap, 2) connections without complexity, 3) sustainability and purpose and 4) a mandate to innovate. It is projected that there will be a STEM talent shortage of 1.5 million people by 2020. Within its culture, GM intends for employees to feel like they belong and can make a difference without the bureaucracy of a multinational company. GM 2020 invites different levels across the organization to positively disrupt ways of working. Regarding sustainability and purpose, GM gives serious consideration to the alarming statistic that 86 percent of employees will leave within their first year of employment if corporate values and behaviors do not align with theirs. With GM’s “Made for More” platform, powerful ideas are fast-tracked into prototypes for internal sponsorship as part of the growth engine that is creating new and revolutionary product design.
Deanna Bratter, Director of Sustainability at DanoneWave, provided a unique perspective about creating a new corporate culture within the largest public benefit company in the U.S., at just 6 weeks after the Dannon/WhiteWave merger. She reminded the audience that DanoneWave has continued Dannon’s dual mission of social purpose and business success since the early 1970s, primarily through its platform of “bringing health through food to as many people as possible.” The path forward includes turning financial success into making an impact through its employees. As DanoneWave pursues its “Alimentation Revolution” – its manifesto of beliefs and commitment to nourishing people, community and planet – the company understands the need to educate and inspire employees. Bratter said “the heart of purpose can bring employees along faster.” The company recognizes that there is a great opportunity to educate the 6,000 DanoneWave employees in 58 countries about the benefits of being a benefit corporation so that there is an alignment of employee and company values, asserting that these common values will engage employees to catapult the company to lead the way in healthy food.
As Culture and Leadership Learning Lead at GE, Kimberly Kleinman-Lee shared ways in which the company has changed during the past years. With 33,000 employees globally and a presence in four major industries (power and energy, healthcare, transportation, and money business), GE needed a revolutionary change in terms of corporate beliefs and culture stewardship. Corporate beliefs now comprise of aspirational values rather than descriptions of the present-day company. Additionally, the company is making a tremendous investment in Digital Industrial – marrying huge equipment with analytics. As GE attempts to transform into a top 10 software company, Kimberly Kleinman-Lee and her team are using data to help expedite work more efficiently. No longer are there annual performance evaluations and ratings; employees are evaluated daily. Factions of employees teach and mentor virtually. More communication is happening about what “good” and “success” looks like and what role expectations across levels. Since language is important to codify, “Managers” are now called “People Leaders.”
The panel also offered words of advice and caution: Arena admitted that it is difficult to be a change agent; his personal rule is to get out of the company one day every six weeks. Bratter advised that authenticity is essential; and Kleinman-Lee asserted the need for ‘mavericks’ among the many ‘maintainers.’
Holistic Reinvention: How L’Oreal Rethought Its Entire Value Chain
Back on the main stage Tuesday afternoon, Nour Tayara, Assistant VP of Marketing at L'Oréal, shared the latest development in the L'Oréal USA line, Biolage. He said "it's not just about product development" ... it's the influence that a single product can carry to change an entire industry. Biolage’s R.A.W. (Real - Authentic - Wholesome) Nourish Shampoo and Conditioner are now Cradle to Cradle Certified™ SILVER by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute and MBDC.
This came about as a mandate from the CEO, who has carried out very clear commitments to develop a naturally derived product that meets consumers' desires for nourishing, volumizing, foaming, good-smelling products to which they are accustomed. R.A.W. is 99 percent biodegradable and free of sulfates, silicones and parabens. The bottle is 100 percent post-consumer recycled PET plastic, manufactured in L'Oréal's Florence, Kentucky plants, which house the largest commercial solar array in Kentucky - eliminating the equivalent of 2.8 million miles traveled by car annually. Tayara informed us that 20 percent of a shampoo's footprint comes from its creation; 80 percent is from its end use. Therefore, Biolage is taking it to the next level by encouraging salons across the country to incorporate sustainable practices – from using less, colder water; to changing the lighting to LED and incorporating reclaimed wood or living, green walls for fresh air and aesthetics. The final step is engagement with the user, whereby Biolage encourages salon clients to think about reusing the bottle once empty, air drying their hair instead of blow drying, eating healthy for better hair and taking shorter showers.
Tayara began his career at L'Oréal by working at photo shoots for Kate Moss and the like, but was determined to be an agent of change. He's helping the entire industry to "throw away the 100-year-old concept" of ‘necessary’ ingredients and what defines beauty, and working to encourage consumer behavior change from a values-based, nature-inspired approach around impacts and interconnectedness.
How to Have Difficult Conversations: Building Bridges in a Divided Country
"We are in an excruciating moment in our history and I want to acknowledge that. We are also in a moment of unprecedented capacity building.”— Renee Lertzman
In a country that is increasingly politically and socially divided, audience members in this Tuesday morning session shared that their personal, political and professional lives are all being impacted. It’s clear people feel discouraged.
While the five panelists – Jason Jay (MIT Sloan), Lertzman (panelist and psychoanalytic researcher), Meighen Speiser (ecoAmerica), Aria Finger (DoSomething.org), and Geof Rochester (The Nature Conservancy) – agreed that we face challenges, they all spoke of the great opportunity to bridge the divide.
“When you understand and acknowledge the anxiety people are feeling, as well as their ambivalence, you can move to the aspirational,” Lertzman said. She has found great success using motivational interviewing when working with the “other side.” A practice of open-ended questions that invites deeper conversation, Lertzman says, “Motivational interviewing works,“ and encouraged us all to get familiar with the practice.
Speiser, Chief Engagement Officer at ecoAmerica, jumped in in agreement: “We do a lot of research, and when we move to common ground we can start to have a conversation.” ecoAmerica is creating a movement by building institutional leadership, public support, and political will for climate solutions in the United States; Rochester, Managing Director of The Nature Conservancy, believes they are doing an exceptional job.
The heaviness in the audience was palpable. Chad Smith, CEO and founder of Human Wealth Partners, reminded us to have hope. “This is not the most divided we have been as a nation. We are not spearing each other with bayonets, no one is dying in the streets. ... yet,” he added softly.
The profound impatience we feel makes it incredibly difficult to be patient with those who do not share our sense of urgency. But we need to move forward with open minds, and work toward incremental change.
“You are not going to move people from the far right to the far left, but you can move people along just a little bit.” Finger, CEO of DoSomething.org, shared. You can do this when you meet them where they are at, and give them choices.
During the session a friend texted Rochester, letting him know the mood was still low, and that people were feeling discouraged. Something more positive, perhaps? Rochester ended by reminding us that Republicans and Democrats alike have supported environmental policy. This year, twelve states voted affirmatively to tax the citizens to fight climate change. In the end, as BBMG and GlobeScan reported in the morning plenary, people all want the same thing: health and wellbeing, financial security, meaningful relationships and a sense of purpose.
Research Roundtable, Part 1: What the Good Life Means to Consumers, and How They Expect Brands to Take Us There
During this Tuesday morning breakout session at SB’17 Detroit, Raphael Bemporad of BBMG put a spotlight on the new consumer mindset shift, which looks to companies to help them meet their needs, doesn’t do harm, and connects them to something bigger.
This shift is partially driven by our lack of leadership in today’s government landscape. People are looking to business to fill that role through their abilities to be visible and to take a stance toward defining and developing the good life.
But how can you position a brand to appeal to consumers and potential employees in these polarizing times where we are defending perspectives and no middle ground exists?
Bemporad offered two perspectives to engage the consumer: aspiration and advocacy.
Is engaging in policy risky? Jonathan Atwood of Unilever offered that risk can diminish when you’re on the right side of your values.
Bemporad reinforced that whichever is the path to engagement, it must be authentic, relevant and credible: “Use the value lens first, then apply that to the issues lens. Understand who you are. It will be exhausting chasing where you stand on each issue versus knowing where you already stand.”
Consumers expect honesty, not perfection. Companies will make missteps – by being honest it doesn’t have to be a detriment to the brand, but an opportunity to invite the consumer to solve the problem with you.
But as Carol Cone of On Purpose reminded us, “Authenticity doesn’t have an on-off switch.” Your authenticity needs to be authentic.
Atwood pointed out that having an advocate and culture leader for a CEO is a plus, but being able to unleash the personal purpose of the workforce will unlock a powerful narrative. Unilever is in year six of its Sustainability Living Plan – 18 brands with authentic purposes and they are growing.
Companies are not only attracting consumers, but they are also attracting their workforce. Millennials are not seeking companies with great pensions (a thing of the past), but are seeking employment with companies that align with their values.
Even internal structure is shifting. Gone are the days of a side team being formed to dream up ideas that push against company mainstays. Today’s teams are integrated throughout the company and are defining the company’s purpose.
Actions will build your brand reputation organically over time. Erica Parker of The Harris Poll stressed that your employees are your brand ambassadors and your first line of defense in a crisis - look within to leverage employees where authentic behavior will cultivate trust and attention.
“It is time to evolve from marketing to mattering,” Parker stated. “Actions must align with words.”
Leading with Delicious: Leveraging the ‘Halo Effect’ to Make Sustainable Products Desirable
Impossible Foods' Rachel Konrad’s presentation can be summed up in one sentence: where rubber meets the road. She is a Detroiter. She is a sustainability leader. She wants to fight climate change. She is also a self-confessed lover of meats. But she is creating a phenomenal impact by encouraging people to stray away from meats and other unsustainable foods.
Here are Konrad’s top take-aways for building brands and movements:
- No compromise. Consumers will not compromise efficiency, fun or taste for sustainability. Linking climate change to your plate is not going to work. Throwing facts on the ridiculously unsustainable nature of meats and livestock-related items is not going to work, either. Impossible built its message around a primal human urge: taste. The Impossible Burger is delicious – that’s where the story begins.
- Count me in. People want to be a part of a movement. The question is how to make it easy to participate. Impossible Foods is doing that by creating options such as The Impossible Burger, which are almost ‘impossible’ to say no to. The best bet to combatting climate change and sustaining the planet is to create emotion-driven, convenient options. Communications and messaging around sustainable foods that throws numbers such as “75 percent less water used,” “95 percent less land used” or “87 percent less GHG emitted” is not going to work. Make it easy. Have people reconsider their decisions and the impact of their decisions by offering delicious solutions such as The Impossible Burger (which she did, during her session).
- The problem and the solution. We are at record levels of meat consumption both in the US and globally. The answer does not lie in hammering the sustainability angle. It simply does not work. Scientists at Impossible Foods created a way to replace meats with plant-based ingredients while retaining the one thing that truly matters to consumers: taste.
To quote Konrad, who summed it up nicely: “Lead with delicious, always.”
Wise Optimization of Good-Life Strategies: Considering the Unintended Consequences of Tomorrow's Solutions
By Nithin Coca
We’ve entering an uncertain age, where the power of technology will grow until it, likely, encompasses our entire lives. John C. Havens, author of Heartificial Intelligence and Executive Director of the IEEE Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems, spoke Tuesday on why ethical considerations matter as we design the next generation of technology for the good life.
Here are some of the resources he mentioned during his chat that can help organizations utilize values-based design in their products as we fling headlong toward the Age of Automation:
- Ethically Aligned Design - IEEE Code of Ethics for the design stage of artificial intelligence and autonomous systems.
- IEEE Standards focused on these ethical considerations.
Redefining ‘The Good Life’ Through the Lens of Consumers and Influencers
“Redefining The Good Life.” It is not an aspirational brand advertising tagline. It is not a title of a self-help book. It is Sustainable Brands’ 3-year global conversation platform. But what does it mean to the public? How does this concept convey meaning for citizens as a long-term personal manifesto?
Sustainable Brands and Harris Poll unveiled new research data this week that helps explain how U.S. consumers currently imagine The Good Life, and what roles they believe brands can play in delivering it. In a two-phase approach, qualitative methods were employed to elicit Americans to define The Good Life in their own words. These collection of words were then used as input into a quantitative survey among 1,000 survey respondents for prioritization.
The journey to redefining The Good Life started with a research focus on two major tasks: 1) redefining what The Good Life means to consumers and 2) redefining how brands can support this conversation platform in the global marketplace.
How ‘The Good Life’ Is Being Redefined
As context, the average lifespan of a S&P 500 company is 12 years today in contrast to 60 years in 1960. Disruption of companies is at an all-time high. Additionally, there has been a cultural shift to intrinsic values (such as trust) as opposed to extrinsic values (such as glamour) in brand choice. As a result, consumption has shifted from mindless to mindfulness. The collective vision of The Good Life is changing as research respondents admit that living The Good Life is different for them than it was for their parents (71 percent), and that their version of The Good Life is different from their children’s (45 percent).
Four primary elements redefine ‘The Good Life’ in today’s world. Significantly, these elements are consistent across age segments and political parties.
- Balanced Simplicity: simplicity, balance, health and happiness
- Meaningful Connections: people, community and environment
- Personal Goals: career and education
- Financial Independence: money and the ability to enjoy it
These primary elements are changing how we take care of ourselves and how we do business. As Erica Parker of Harris Poll stated, “we are embracing unlikely unions for better lives” when a retirement home counts both young and old among its residents. Today, “The Good Life” dials down the important of affluence as wealth is no longer seen as a definitive measure of success, according to research respondents. And after years of economic uncertainly, ‘personal goals’ relate to finding a rewarding job rather than high-paying employment – helping Americans to pursue their ‘dream’ jobs.
Opportunities for Brands
How do brands help U.S. consumers embody The Good Life? Americans want business to be congruent with their aspirations. 51 percent of respondents think companies care about consumers achieving The Good Life, yet 65 percent believe most products and services do not help them achieve it. While citizens also need to turn their words into action, they want help and don’t know what to ask.
The opportunity for brands is to close the consumer expectation gap with offerings across industries that genuinely provide value – for example, in the realm of health and wellness benefits, aiding personal connections, and bettering the world. As Parker indicated, “Products are not delivering. Relationships between brands and consumers are more transactional than they should be. The opportunity for brands is to ‘matter more’ to consumers and enact aspirations.”
The Global Perspective
BBMG and GlobeScan conducted parallel research about redefining “The Good Life” around the world. BBMG’s Raphael Bemporad indicated, in the current state of global affairs where a dominant divisive narrative is pervasive, there is an emerging paradigm of recognition of fundamental interconnection. In a global context, research respondents convey that The Good Life surfaces feelings and desires for themselves, families and communities.
In both urban and rural areas around the world, 16,000 citizens answered the single question: “How would you describe ‘The Good Life’?”
GlobeScan’s Chris Coulter presented four building blocks of the global perspective of The Good Life:
- Health & Wellbeing
- Financial Security & A Good Job
- Meaningful Relationships
- A Sense of Purpose
Similar to the Sustainable Business/Harris Poll study findings, the global theme is centered around individual stability, self-reliance and collective interconnections. Some examples: in Europe, a sense of balance and collaboration; the view of stability is essential in Brazil; in Africa, a collective sense of cooperation permeates; basic needs are the focus in Mexico; individual self-reliance is prominent in the US. The four building blocks rank consistently among regions despite cultural differences:
- South America: Health & Well-Being (40 percent); Financial Security (36 percent); Meaningful Relationships (12 percent); Sense of Purpose (12 percent)
- Asia: Health & Well-Being (33 percent); Financial Security (31 percent); Sense of Purpose (19 percent); Meaningful Relationships (17 percent)
- Europe: Health & Well-Being (36 percent); Financial Security (36 percent); Sense of Purpose (16 percent); Meaningful Relationships (13 percent)
- North America: Health & Well-Being (33 percent); Financial Security (29 percent); Sense of Purpose (19 percent); Meaningful Relationships (19 percent)
So if we all want the same things, then what is the problem? Bemporad asserts that there are a range of challenges – from finite resources and income inequality to racism and injustice – that add up to a lack of trust. We are living in a time when our social contract is strained and taking care of each other is questioned.
Brands have a tremendous role to play in having an impact on “The Good Life.” As part of redefining The Good Life, humanity should be put at the center of brands by:
- Placing people at the center of decisions: empathy leads to great respect. Let’s see each other with a different pair of glasses.
- Purpose beyond products: emphasize a higher purpose beyond incremental product benefits. Go all the way to creating a good life – including addressing finite resources
- Bring perspective on issues that matter: a tremendous opportunity exists for brands to stand for values that are significant to consumers.
- Participation by all: the world’s problems are complicated and difficult and the collective genius of everyone is needed to solve these issues. Bring more voices to the table.
As Bemporad put it: Brands are made by humans and for humans. Brands can bring about transformation to solve complicated social and environmental issues. It is a calling for brands to remove barriers to The Good Life.